From one crisis to the next - Interview
Thursday, 13th Sep 2018 11:51 by Clive Whittingham
As Bolton Wanderers lurch into, and seemingly straight out of, another financial crisis, Chris Mann from the Burnden Aces website very kindly helped us out with just what on earth is going on up there now.
What on earth is going on?
Just when things start to look up for us as a club, another bombshell makes the headlines and we're in the news for all the wrong reasons.This time around, the threat of administration seemed to come out of nowhere but did so due to an unpaid loan of almost £5m - something which the current ownership have known about, and renegotiated multiple times, since taking over the reins in March 2016. Bolton do owe money to others, albeit minor in comparison to this BluMarble loan, but this one was due for repayment on September 1 and clearly wasn't fulfilled until the last possible moment.
Bolton were taken over, and promoted, very recently, how has a new ownership already got into this situation?
Former owner Eddie Davies, who sadly passed away earlier this week, kept the club afloat when it came close to collapse in the early 2000s.
We enjoyed the highs of European football and four consecutive top-eight Premier League finishes under Sam Allardyce - all while names such as Nicolas Anelka, Jay-Jay Okocha, Ivan Campo and Youri Djorkaeff represented our famous old club - but the struggle became glaringly obvious once our stay in the top-flight came to an end in 2012.
Wanderers were close to liquidation two-and-a-half years ago and were only kept in business due to a joint-takeover of Dean Holdsworth and our chairman, Ken Anderson.Although his best intentions and pride at owning the club he played for were there for all to see, Holdsworth simply couldn't fund a takeover himself and resorted to taking out a £4million loan on very high interest - attaching liability to club assets in the process.
He stepped down from the club in August 2017 after his parent company, Sports Shield BWFC, was liquidated and his 38% share was passed on to Anderson at a cut-price value. Unfortunately, the BluMarble loan Holdsworth signed off was inherited by Anderson who, despite challenging the legality on multiple occasions, was left to sort out the mess and only just appears to have done so, seemingly with the help of a third-party.
Realistically, how will it be resolved? Is the admin and points deduction a threat to break a deadlock or a real possibility?
Panic was in the air when reports of impending administration broke on Monday, but there was also a sense that the words of Ken Anderson - released via a statement on the club's website - were a ploy to prompt BluMarble into further negotiation. In the end, this seemed to be the case as Anderson's view that Wanderers would be less valuable to any buyer whilst in administration appeared to spark a re-think from the finance company. The debt has since been settled and we're led to believe that will be the end of any administration talk, as well as the threat of a points deduction.
How's the relationship between the fans and the owners?
The relationship is difficult to describe, as there is a very large split in opinion. There are those who appreciate the work Ken Anderson has done in keeping the club afloat and employing a manager who has done a remarkable job in extreme circumstances, while there are others who are growing increasingly frustrated at the ongoing negativity surrounding debts and wages, and think he is only involved to line his own pockets. It's very much a 'Marmite' situation. As for my own personal view, I remain unconvinced. The man deserves a huge amount of credit - something he isn't ever likely to receive from the majority - but the way the club seems to be operating and surrounded in constant negativity undoes a lot of that hard work.
On the pitch it's actually been a great start, after a season of struggle last year how has that been turned around?
Momentum is key in football and I think Bolton are riding that wave at this moment in time. With five minutes to play on the final day of last season, supporters had resigned themselves to relegation and a return to League One. What happened next was just the most unlikely of outcomes and one that will forever live in the memory. When the fixtures came out and we were pitted away at West Bromwich Albion on opening day, many feared a good hiding from a team that so very nearly retained their Premier League status last term. Like so many teams to have dropped out of the top-flight in recent times - ourselves included - West Brom just weren't up for the fight and we picked up all three points through two goals made from simple crosses into the box. A 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Sheffield United aside, Wanderers have given themselves every chance of having a good season with their start. Safety, however, remains the only objective.
Presumably Phil Parkinson's work is revered by the supporters, looks like a miracle job to us. Is there any suggestion he may walk?
Parkinson is always somewhere to be found when the betting odds are listed for vacant managerial roles, but he never seems to be too high on the list and I'm unaware of any serious talk of him leaving since his arrival from Bradford City in 2016. There will always be some supporters who don't like his playing style or the fact that we're struggling at the foot of the division, but the conditions he has been made to work under cannot be ignored. He got us promoted as runners-up in League One and backed it up with Championship survival, all without spending a penny on transfers and losing top goalscorer Gary Madine in last January's transfer window. There aren't many capable of doing what he has and I'm very surprised links to other clubs don't appear to come about.
Tell us about your summer transfer business, who came and who went? You actually paid money for a player for the first time in a while which seems a bit odd now in hindsight.
Listing the players who left would take all day, but some of the bigger names were Darren Pratley, Karl Henry and Filipe Morais, while fans' favourite Adam Le Fondre was allowed to make a dream move to Sydney FC. We now seem to have rid ourselves of the biggest salaries and are in a position to continue the rebuilding job, including the purchase of not one but TWO players. Prior to this, Wanderers hadn't bought anybody since shelling out a measly £75,000 for Celtic's Filip Twardzik in February 2015. He played five games before being released and is now playing for Slovakian side MFK Ruzomberok - so that one worked out well...
Where is the team strong and where is it weak?
Goalkeeper Ben Alnwick has been outstanding over the past 18 months and continues to earn the plaudits, but our midfield seems to be the strong point this season. The duo of Pratley and Henry did exactly what was asked of them last season, but both have gone and since been replaced with any combination of Jason Lowe, Josh Vela, Luke Murphy, Joe Williams, Erhun Oztumer or the veteran Gary O'Neil. The wide positions are also looking dangerous, with Sammy Ameobi, Craig Noone, Yanic Wildschut and Will Buckley all competing for places.
If there is a weakness to our side, it is still the defence. David Wheater and Mark Beevers are paired centrally for the third successive season and although both have ability, they lack pace to deal with those tricky forwards.The same can be said at left-back where Andrew Taylor and Jonathan Grounds could struggle against a speedy winger, although the arrival of Pawel Olkowski at right-back looks like a genius move from Parkinson so far.
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